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Court: Diocese Does Not Have to Turn Over Records

Montana law has strict protection of privacy.

Key point: Confidential church personnel records ordinarily must be disclosed in response to a subpoena. However, there are limited exceptions to this rule.

• The Montana Supreme Court ruled that a Catholic diocese did not have to turn over its personnel records on a priest who was charged with deviate sexual misconduct. A priest was charged with two counts of deviate sexual misconduct. He pled not guilty to the charges, and presented the prosecution with a list of 15 character witnesses who were prepared to testify in his favor concerning his exemplary behavior. The prosecutor sought a subpoena to obtain the priest's personnel file from the diocese. The purpose of the subpoena was to seek reports of similar misconduct, disciplinary actions, transfers, and potential witnesses who could be called on to rebut the priest's 15 character witnesses. A judge issued the subpoena ...

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  • July 1, 1993

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